Astronomy Picture of the Day for June 18 – Milky Way Above Easter Island I

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 June 18

Milky Way Above Easter Island

   Image Credit & Copyright: Manel Soria  

Explanation: Why were the statues on Easter Island built? No one is sure.   What is sure is that over 800 large stone statues exist there.   The Easter Island statues, stand, on the average, over twice as tall as a person and have over 200 times as much mass.   Few specifics are known about the history or meaning of the unusual statues, but many believe that they were created about 500 years ago in the images of local leaders of a lost civilization.   Pictured above, some of the  stone giants were illuminated in 2009  under the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 31
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

The Helix Nebula from the VISTA Telescope
Credit: ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson; Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit  

 

 

Explanation: Will our Sun look like this one day? The Helix Nebula is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula, given a technical designation of NGC 7293, lies about 700 light-years away towards the constellation of the Water Bearer (Aquarius) and spans about 2.5 light-years. The above picture was taken three colors on infrared light by the 4.1-meter Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin.